Recipe source: The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Euphemism: Nubbley, crispy, mustard-breaded meaty [subjective] goodness. Not much on the web on this recipe, so thank your stars you found this blog and complementary photoset. So how was it? Well, let me give a few comments, observations, and opinions:
- If you are going to eat pig’s ears, this is probably the best recipe you will find;
- The pig’s ears were a great vehicle for the homemade tartar sauce, but many other culinary creations could function as an equally good, and superiorly tasting carrier;
- Gristled texture, carltilage texture, funky flavor, funky smell–not bad, just funky;
- Cool to make, cool to have people taste, but not a life-changing experience in texture or flavor to make me want to go out of my way to present the dish again;
- Most everyone was willing to give the dish a cursory taste–and the two guests who had eaten pigs ears in Brazil (in a soup) said that HF-W’s recipe was the best pig ear dish they had eaten, but they didn’t particularly care for them then, and still don’t particularly care for them now.
All in all, I am a proponent of this dish, but only under certain circumstances; which is to say, if I were to buy a pig “on the hoof,” or were to have the means to raise and butcher my own pig, I would make them to engage in ethical nose-to-tail eating. Still, I will commit to eating two pig ears for every 200 pounds/93 kilogams of pork I eat. Like many of us, most of my meat purchasing is done at a butcher, so I have access to select cuts whenever I want them; but at the same time, I think it is a bit selfish to buy and eat the premium cuts and ignore the others, so I plan to keep a diary recording the porcine parts I eat, which means I plan to eat two pig’s ears for every two 8 1/2-pound picnic hams, two 11-pound shoulder butts, two 23-pound hams, two 14-pound pieces of of pork belly, and two 30-pound loin sections, plus a large quantity of pork ribs (to which list ought to be added one pork liver + other offal, including the head (as brawn), 16 pounds random trimmings for sausage, 15 pounds fat, 10 pounds skin, 30 pounds stock bones, 4 trotters, 4 hocks, and 1 gallon of blood, the last of which is very difficult to obtain in the U.S.).
I purchased my pig’s ears at a local butcher, and the fact that they display them in the case suggests there is still significant demand for them. At the same time, on a cost analysis basis, I could have bought pork belly for the same price and made bacon or lardons; and when on sale, pork shoulder or pork picnic cuts go for half the price. Still, I stand by my claim that this dish is worth considering for ethical eating habits. Having tasted the pig’s ears when they came out of the stock, before breading, and after they were breaded and came out of the oven, if you had to choose one way to eat pig’s ears, this is probably one of the more paletable ways to enjoy them, so kudos once again to HF-W.
- Two pig’s ears;
- Homemade pork stock to cover (which came from smoked pork shoulder bones & a smoked turkey carcass)
- Spices to taste (beyond the stock): bay, juniper, salt, pepper. Go with what feels right
- English mustard
- Homemade bread crumbs (crisp a loaf in the oven, then pulverize it in a food processor)
- Homemade tartar sauce (see The River Cottage Cookbook). Very tasty.
Simmer ears in stock for at least 2 1/2 hours. Remove, cut into strips. Coat with mustard, then breadcrumbs. Bake in 425 to 450 oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot as soon as possible with homemade tartar sauce.